D&I Interview Series #1: Leng Montgomery, BDO

February 24, 2020

Diversity & inclusion is something that we talk about regularly and it is something that we are as passionate about as the candidates and clients that I am working with.

Sometimes though we find that the D&I space has not developed as it should within business and it is interesting to hear the stories of how we are not advancing this very important topic. We want to share some of these experiences via a series of interviews with some of our contact and we would love to hear some of your stories as well. 

To kick off, it was a pleasure to interview Leng Montgomery, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at BDO UK LLP.

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk to me. Could you please introduce yourself?

I’m Leng Montgomery and I am Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP.

We work with businesses such as Evenbreak & MyGWork to try and diversify our talent pool – who do you work with and/or recommend?

We currently work with a number of agencies and part of my job is to plan which external businesses BDO wants to work with in the future too.

In previous roles I’ve had experiences with Vercida and MyGWork which have been really positive but I think this has also been a result of working in partnership and for an employer that isn’t shy about being visible in its celebration and commitment to a diverse and inclusive place to work and active celebration of difference of colleague and ways of working. 

Where do you think the onboarding ownership should sit? Is it an internal or external company? Whose job is it to manage your people?

Onboarding processes can be different depending on what type of sector a business is placed in. I think with all third party contractors it’s really important to ensure that your company values are clearly represented and understood as in some cases such as background and compliance checking an external provider might be required.

By holding regular events for providers and engaging as many people on your procurement supply chain it can help everyone to understand the correct and relevant messages, values and priorities that will ensure that there is a consistent representation of the company and brand.

When you have been in the process of seeking your next opportunity, what is it that you noticed about companies you interviewed with i.e. any issues or anything done well?

In the types of role I tend to apply for, the focus on Diversity and Inclusion has been an important one for me to have a look at! But more specifically I really like to see how people focussed a business is and how much do they talk about the people in the company. It’s also helpful if there’s some form of culture report and not just a gender or ethnicity pay gap and ideally some information about any colleague network groups or memberships with other organisations that they may be associated with.

I also utilise LinkedIn quite a lot as it can give further insight into what it might be like to work for a company. If it’s only communications are about business wins and very little about the people I don’t tend to find them very attractive. I also think it’s really important for companies to be loud and proud about talking about different ways of working such as returnships, flexible working, shared parental leave etc.

Could you tell us more about your evolving role within your business and some early impacts?

I have only been in my role at BDO for a short time, but have been really pleased to see that there’s great Senior Leadership engagement and a strategy that sets the tone for culture. There’s a lot of emphasis on setting people up for success as well a focus around ‘Be Yourself’ which is a great way of working and something I will be ensuring that we are doing through all areas of our business.

In terms of early impact we recently changed our company logo over to a rainbow for LGBT History Month as we feel that LGBT solidarity doesn’t just exist during Pride Months but at other times of the year as well. I’ve also been getting to know our great colleague network groups, such as our BAME network and BDO Inspire, who focus on promotion gender balance in the firm. I have seen some great events being hosted by these networks, with more planned by them and our other networks as the year goes on. I am representing BDO at an external conference at the end of February too!

Do you feel that some businesses claim to have a D&I function but don’t actually believe in it? 

D&I can be something that’s hard to measure, but I also believe that there shouldn’t always be a KPI placed on issues of this nature however, it’s really important to ensure that any activity taking place has purpose and impact.

It’s not good enough to implement anything just because others are. Anything that is implemented should be about what works well for the business and make it a great place to work.

But as an absolute minimum it’s important that if a business say’s it does something or believes in something that it is communicated throughout the organisation and understood by employees at all levels. 

Do you feel that the D&I function has evolved?

There’s definitely more of us than there was about 10 years ago that’s for sure! I think more and more businesses are seeing the value and importance of D&I and are actively making it a part of the companies’ business strategy and priorities, rather than it being seen as merely an extension of HR.

I’ve already noticed that some companies are starting to have Chief Diversity Officers and I believe that we will start to see more frequent placement in boardrooms and senior leadership teams of the future.

What education do you think businesses need to understand sensitivities within the D&I community?

I do feel that there is a continual process of learning with D&I weaved into many touch points and business areas in order to create the best environment for businesses to perform at their best.

There will be days when it’s not easy or people are stepping out of their comfort zones, but by investing and educating people about the culture and how to succeed, businesses will create a better environment for people to work in.

It’s great to see companies whereby employees seem to thrive and where there’s the right scope for people to be their best selves and feel proud of where they work and have a sense of belonging too.